The Agnelli family, who founded the Fiat car firm and are arguably the most well-known of Italy’s economic dynasties, is divided over an inheritance issue, and a Turin court is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks.
Gianni Agnelli, the renowned Fiat CEO who was a symbol of Italy’s post-war economic success and passed over twenty years ago, is the subject of the case.
It pits Agnelli’s eldest child, John Elkann, the chairman of Ferrari, against three of her eight children, including argherita Agnelli,M who received an inheritance of 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion).
Margherita is battling to overturn agreements she signed after her father’s passing in the battle that has torn apart one of Italy’s wealthy families in order to eventually benefit her five children from a second marriage, according to those close to her.
Margherita Agnelli, 67, Gianni Agnelli’s lone surviving child, could be entitled to half of her mother’s wealth and a part in the Elkann family firm if the Turin court rules in her favor.
The conflict stems from an inheritance agreement known as the “Geneva pacts” that Margherita, an artist and philanthropist, signed in 2004 following the passing of her father that year and reached at a time when Fiat was on the verge of bankruptcy.
The initial agreement provided for Margherita to receive real estate, pieces of art, and other cash assets from Gianni’s estate in exchange for her renunciation of future control over the Dicembre (December) company, a significant stakeholder in Exor, the Agnelli family holding.
The agreements effectively eliminated John Elkann’s mother Margherita from the running for Gianni Agnelli’s role as his designated successor.
The 47-year-old John Elkann is the current CEO of Exor, which holds stakes in prominent companies and brands like national newspapers and the sports team Juventus.
The second agreement dealt with what would happen to Margherita’s mother Marella’s estate if she passed away in 2019 at the age of 91.
Three of Marella’s grandkids, John, his brother Lapo, and Ginevra, from Margherita’s first marriage to writer Alain Elkann, received her Dicembre stake.
According to people close to Margherita, she wants the agreements torn up so she may give her children with second husband Serge De Pahlen, a Franco-Russian former Fiat executive, a portion of their grandmother’s inheritance.
Margherita also contends that because her father’s hidden assets were uncovered after his passing, she and her family members should be entitled to a portion of them.
Sources on Margherita’s side rejected claims that the initial settlement included any potential further concealed assets from Gianni Agnelli’s estate that might have been discovered.
The case that started three years ago in Turin, the home of Fiat and the traditional base for the Agnelli family, was brought on by Marella’s passing.
It is the most recent of several legal disputes over the inheritance that have taken place over the past 15 years in courts in both Switzerland and Italy.
Margherita’s attorneys in Turin contend that the “Geneva pacts” ought to be deemed void because they were agreed to on the false pretense that Marella lived in Switzerland. Such inheritance pacts are illegal under Italian law.
According to documents Margherita’s attorneys submitted to the Turin court, which Reuters has obtained and which also contain reports from private investigators, Marella should not have been considered a Swiss resident as she never spent more than four months a year there from 2003 to 2019.
According to sources close to the Elkann camp, Marella Agnelli’s status as a Swiss resident was recognized by the Swiss and the Italian governments both at the time of her death in 2019 and when the inheritance arrangement was completed in 2004.
Margherita’s source challenges that interpretation.
After Marella’s passing, John Elkann holds a 60% portion of the Dicembre holding, while his siblings Ginevra and Lapo each own 20%. The hub of the complex network of businesses owned by the Agnelli family is Dicembre.
With a 38% interest, it is the largest shareholder in Giovanni Agnelli BV, a company made up of about 100 stockholders who represent about 200 still-living Agnelli ancestors.
In turn, Giovanni Agnelli BV holds a 53% controlling interest in the publicly traded Exor, which holds shares of Juventus, Stellantis, and Ferrari.
According to sources close to the Elkanns, no court decision can undo the December transfer of the shares to the Elkanns. They assert that Margherita’s assertions are an attempt to gain unjustified additional financial advantage.
Before the summer vacation, a decision is expected in Turin, but it might not put an end to the affair that has separated Margherita from her first three children.
The Italian justices have the ability to put judgment on hold while they await the outcome of a related case involving the legitimacy of the Geneva pacts from a Swiss court.